Phan Rang, Vietnam-Mike Flynn, Interplast volunteer anesthesiologist.
It is hot and sticky at 7:30 am as we make our way across the park to the hospital. We are carrying packs with surgical scrubs, our favorite pieces of equipment and, above all, some apprehension on our first day as a team operating in a strange environment. Dr. Duke Hagerty, Interplast volunteer plastic surgeon, is very concerned about his first patient, a little 2-year-old girl named Suong. He had discussed her with our other surgeon Dr. Shankar Man Rai, Interplast surgical outreach director in Nepal, and an expert on lips and palates.
The situation was unique in that Suong was the only child of an elderly couple. Her parents had desperately tried to have a child for 11 years and Suong was their jewel. Unfortunately, she was born with an extremely severe lip and palate deformity. So severe that she really lacked enough skin to bring the lip together.
The operation was the third of the day and as Dr. Hagerty made the incision, he quietly said, “We have to make this perfect.” He struggled with the lack of tissue, removed and replaced sutures. Finally, he asked Dr. Rai for his opinion and only when he was fully satisfied that he had the best result with the available tissue, did he relax a little and give permission to wake the patient.
Late that night I was with the team on post-op rounds. A smiling grateful couple sat next to their child fanning her to keep her cool. They were almost overwhelmed with gratitude, feeding sips of water to their little hero. Dr. Hagerty with his usual reserved self, smiled and said “next.”